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Beretta -- the U.S. service pistol since the '80s

The armies of the consolidated European forces, NATO all had adopted the International German cartridge, the 9mm Luger. There were a number of mostly European armories making variations of handguns for them, but all were chambered for the Luger 9mm. American manufacturers, such as giant Winchester, were suppliers of NATO ammunition.

The U.S. Congress took note of the fact that the U.S. Armed Forces were still using the outdated Colt 45 semi-automatic pistol. Under an act of Congress, there began a serious effort toward standardization, bringing all of the U.S. Service branches in line with NATO. So began an effort by the U.S. Air Force to equip flyers and ground forces with something better than the Colt Army 45. The caliber was to be the Luger 9mm.

Colt opposed the whole thing, as its pistol, even when converted to 9mm still weighed 40 ounces. Italy's Beretta, German-Swiss Sig Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Germany's Heckler & Koch, Walther, Taurus and others were eager to get prototypes to America's Aberdeen Proving Grounds for tests and evaluations. For decades, Beretta had been supplying foreign countries, NATO forces included with its version, the B9 model. Browning and Austria's Steyer were late entries. Beretta had delivered about 316,000 M9 models at about $237 per pistol. The Colt was delivering to U.S. Forces at $600 each.

Clearly, the M9 Beretta was a step ahead of the rest. It was warmly received when tested at Aberdeen, Fort Benning and Elgin Air Force Base.

In 1986, Beretta was awarded an initial order for 50,000 pistols, now designated as the 92SB-F in 9mm. There arose an immediate protest by Heckler & Koch and Smith & Wesson. S & W had strong allies in the U.S. Congress. Legal wrangling went on for more than a year, and the U.S. forces couldn't award the Italian firm with more orders, although all branches of the U.S. Military were delighted with the superbly made, light and accurate 9mm made in the USA by Beretta at a Virginia factory. It was the best anyone had ever seen. The FBI and scores of city police departments across America ordered the new Berettas and had adopted it as their service weapon.

Congressman Jack Brooks of Connecticut was friendly with execs of the Smith & Wesson Company. It was his committee that heard a decorated U.S. Marine, a U.S. Navy Seal and an Air Force General testify of personal use of the Beretta firearm while engaged in enemy conflagration. It was enough for the U.S. General Accounting Office to clear the way for all U.S. Service branches to place orders with Beretta USA Corporation for whatever number of the pistols that each branch needed.

As they say, the rest is history. Millions of U.S. Army Colt 45s were recalled to arsenals. The Army 45 was no more. None of the Colts were released and sold by the Director Of Civilian Marksmanship, the branch of the U.S. government usually charged with disposing of surplus military guns of any type. The U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Immigrations and Border Patrol now have an estimated 700,000 M92SB-F Beretta 9mm pistols in use.

In 1995, after 457,454 Beretta pistols had been delivered to its arsenals, the U.S. Army sent a target, with a single bullet hole in the center, to Beretta, USA Corp. underscoring its pleasure with the highly finished, accurate and efficient new pistols it was continuing to receive. Few manufacturers, of any product can match Beretta's success in designing and manufacturing this firearm.

Your name on a new cartridge

It requires a lot of time, in research and development, but once a rifle company's name is on a new cartridge, there's achievement. Such is the case of Sturm, Ruger & Company. The Company's name on the new varmint caliber, the .204 Ruger is the latest. Exceeding the famous 4,100 fps of the .220 Swift, the speedy newcomer is a varmint cartridge. It has speed that kills instantly on animals such as coyote, crow and western jackrabbits. There are developments that adapt the .204 Ruger to a lot of field uses. Naming a cartridge after its inventor isn't new. Old established gun companies such as Smith & Wesson, Colt, Remington and Winchester have scores of cartridges with industry wide use of their names on them. This new .204 is Ruger's first, and it's the only one since the .223 Remington 30 years ago.

Developed in Colorado where Ruger produces rifles, it is cutting into the sales of the aforementioned, as well as other speed merchants. Ruger makes rifles for the .204 Ruger, of course, and by Winchester and Remington. Not cheap by any means, one of the Model 70s, or Ruger's Model 77 cost about $700 and they're selling well.

Coyote hunting is a very serious sport all over the west, including both Dakotas and Minnesota. The 45-grain bullet of the new .204 Ruger has already achieved a reputation for long-range accuracy. Hornady, Speer and others make the bullets. You'll need the latest Johnny Stewert electronic collar to produce rabbit squeals, coyote-in-distress calls that bring the canine critters to within 50 yards of your set up. Ruger, the sensational gun company success since 1943's 22-caliber pistol and the Single Six handguns has once again stolen the shoe with the new varmint caliber.

Fish winterkill was severe

The southern third of Minnesota got record amounts of snow this past winter. As a result of the sun not reaching the water for a long time, oxygen was depleted in the water and now with ice out occurring, there are a lot of dead fish floating. Most of them are rough fish. Carp, bigmouth buffalo and channel catfish all are among the fish that perished. Loss of these will result in improved fishing of our more desirable types of native gamefish, but that will take perhaps three years. DNR netting this spring has shown lots of pike, walleyes, bass, crappies, and many perch. Lake Shetek in Murray County was one of the popular fishing lakes. Residents gathered up the rough fish and transported them to farm fields for the excellent fertilizer they will produce. The DNR does participate in winterkill fish removal, but the state agency is gratified at the rapid response of citizens in getting the job done. When crops are aided, so much the better. Lyon, Murray, and Lincoln County were among those with fish losses. Lake Shetek is already scheduled for walleye stocking, and the results look positive with so many of the rough fish gone. There could be a bumper crop of walleyes resulting.